At the risk of making this sound like an open letter to my mother: I told you so. After years of being berated for not investing in property, many liberated renters like myself can now lie back in our roof-top gardens and watch the housing market crash around us, while rent gets a few per cent cheaper every couple of months. Ain't life a peach?
I am staunchly against the buying of property. Nothing is going to convince me to buy. I think there is a simple logic to not buying property in Ireland: it's just not worth it. It's very difficult to justify buying a two bedroom duplex in some makedy-uppity development named after a tree like 'Willowville', 'Oakyniceplace', 'Shinybeechmews' – despite the fact that the only sign of foliage within a five-mile radius is an evergreen air freshener in a building site prefab– when you compare prices internationally. You can buy tropical islands for the price of an Irish bedsit. And sure, the comparisons might be a bit unrealistic, as in, you're never going to actually buy that tropical island for €400,000 anyway, but it's the principle of the thing. The average price of a house in Ireland is €300,000. And I'm sorry, but that's just having a laugh. I'm not going to be the punch line.
Now the added bonus of being right, and not succumbing to societal pressure of getting on the property ladder, sweetens the deal. Renting was previously a life usually ascribed to flakes, reality deniers, the broke, bold and immature. But it's pretty sweet listening to all this doom-and-gloom stuff about mortgages going ballistic while the price of a house ticks down by the minute like some sick stopwatch in reverse. No worries for me. Smug? Absolutely.
People in their 20s and 30s who were bullied into buying property when prices were at their highest are now stuck with one-bedroom apartments on the side of commuter-belt motorways, while after years of being told rent was dead money, or that renters were throwing money down the drain, making mean landlords rich and getting nothing for a monthly investment, it appears those who haven't bought are the smart ones.
There is a certain delight for the house-less in watching George Lee donning his grim property reaper outfit on the Six One News and forecasting rapidly falling house prices and rising mortgage interest rates. I know that sounds horrible, and really, one shouldn't be revelling in the misfortune of others, but it makes up for the years of nagging from the world about "when are you going to buy a place?" "when are you going to get on the property ladder?" "wouldn't it be nice to have a place of your own?"
Renters and owners are two very different tribes. Owners are much like people with a new baby. They become total bores, talking about tiles for hours, crying when Habitat closed, debating the merits of Dunnes Home, swapping mobile phone numbers for builders, spending entire weekends wandering around Ikea in Belfast like flat-pack zombies, and actually thinking that grouting is interesting. Renters are Celtic Tiger nomads, roaming Daft.ie, making friends, enemies, discovering new lands, and neighbourhoods you never knew existed, dealing with showers in sitting rooms, 'double rooms' that are in fact closets, 'studio apartments' that have kitchens in wardrobes and one washing machine between 14 apartments, before settling on somewhere shiny and central that could never realistically be afforded for purchase.
Ultimately, it's a choice between freedom and attachment, being tied down or not. The historical obsession with owning land and property here is a haze that clouds the benefits of long-term renting. How can it be money down the drain when you're living in a great place convenient for work and socialising, and when you don't have to spend money on appliances or maintenance or bin charges or renovations? When you enjoy renting, after a while, buying somewhere sounds like an obnoxious concept. The only thing owning seems to have in its favour is security, but hey, it's not very secure when the arse falls out of the market, is it?
Okay, so fine, in the last short while in my own gaff, renting in Dublin 1 has led to a total of one mugging, two broken presses (most new shiny apartments are actually rush built with a cunning mixture of PVA glue and prayers, leading door handles to come off in your hands and plugs positioned in unreachable places), some very entertained builders who treat the view through our floor-to-ceiling windows like an episode of Big Brother, and one extremely upset ground-floor language school which we accidentally flooded with a few long and enthusiastic showers. Oops. But on the plus side, we don't have to pay any attention to ANYTHING George Lee says. It's very comfy in this responsibility vacuum.